The debate over effective ways to prevent mass shootings has been going on for a very long time. Despite the recent increase in the frequency of mass shootings, the people in our nation have not come to an agreement on which avenue to pursue when it comes to preventing future mass shootings. Some say that increased gun control is the answer. Others say that increased access to mental illness treatment is the answer. Without concrete data to back up potential solutions, there will never be an effective, targeted solution implemented. It is only through a social movement toward the destigmatizing of mental illness that we can start to have an impact on the gun-related deaths in America. Here’s my case.

The left likes to make the erroneous argument that guns are inherently evil. This is a lie. Guns, while created to kill either people or animals, are not evil. It is the people who use guns to take innocent lives who are evil. This is the reason the left wants to increase the barriers put in place to obtain a gun, so that it is harder for evil people to obtain guns. I would definitely support any and all common sense gun-control legislation that makes it harder for evil people in this world to obtain guns, especially automatic guns or even kits that would convert a semi-automatic gun into an automatic gun. But, most of the time, the left talks about gun control that would decrease the prevalence of good people with guns, which I am against, since that would infringe on our second amendment rights.

It is not always the case that evil people are committing the gun-related murders. These people could also be mentally unstable and have one, if not multiple, mental illnesses. In this case, having not had adequate medical treatment of their mental illness can, and has, lead multiple people down the path to murder, or sometimes mass murder. It is not a secret that the U.S. does not have adequate mental health treatment facilities. Access to these facilities is also very limited. Even if the access to mental health facilities was addressed and more facilities were built to increase their prevalence, who’s to say that they would get utilized? A symptom of many mental illnesses is that the individual does not think they have a mental illness, and thus will not willingly check themselves into a mental hospital for proper treatment, or even go see a therapist. Without overtly being a danger to themselves or others, these people go on living their lives without the proper treatment they need.

One solution that attempts to prevent mentally unstable people from obtaining firearms is to do a mental health screening test before being allowed to purchase a gun. Realistically speaking, this is not practical in any way. To properly diagnose a mental illness, one has to go through weeks, if not months of therapy. Sometimes this diagnosis can even be wrong (yes, science can be wrong folks). A full, accurate mental health analysis prior to purchasing a firearm would take far too long for it to be a practical measure put in place. Knowing legislators, they’d probably want to streamline this test if implemented, which would make it exponentially less accurate, and thus less helpful in curbing the number of mentally unstable people who own guns.

A large number of mass shootings in America have been murder-suicides, where the shooter kills as many people as they can before turning their gun on themselves. If the mass shooting wasn’t a murder-suicide, it probably was a suicide by cop, where the shooter knows they’ll be killed on site by law enforcement. I would argue this potentially is indicative of an underlying mental illness. A sane person does not just decide to go off and kill a bunch of people and then themselves. These mass murderers are probably experiencing excessive amounts of stress and anxiety at the time of the shooting, due to the situation they believe they’ve been put in. An example of this would be workplace shootings, where the shooter does not see a way out of their situation, other than to react out of anger and frustration towards their coworkers, and then themselves, for having been previously wronged by the company they work for.

In 2014 there were 33,594 firearm-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, 21,386 were due to firearm suicides. That is almost two thirds. If we are to make our country a safer place we need to first destigmatize proper mental illness treatment. Doing this would not only save the people’s lives that commit suicide with a firearm, but also those they purposefully take with them prior to turning the gun on themselves. Too many times people feel trapped and helpless because they’re suffering from an untreated mental illness. If only these people felt loved and safe enough to reach out to the people around them for help. Only then can we start on the right path to dramatically decreasing the overall number of firearm related deaths in America while not infringing on the rights of others.